Recreating a classic
Quite a few film buffs have known the classic children’s film created by the legendary Satyajit Ray – Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne. This Bengali film was based on a story by Ray’s grandfather Upendrakishore Ray, a noted writer and illustrator, amongst other. The film still ranks as one of the best children’s film and on a must-watch list of most film lovers. To re-adapt it as per one’s vision would be a giant leap. But that has been done in a rather fascinating manner by Soumitra and Shilpa Ranade. The couple have made an animation version in Hindi called Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya. What works for this film is the use of digital cut-up animation, and drawings which remind you of actual art than just another digital work. It was recently shown at the National Film Archive of India by Arbhaat Children’s Film Club to its little members and there was also a Q-A session.
For those unaware of the original story and the subsequent Ray film, the story revolves two rather innocent but dumb duo – a singer Goopy who cannot sing and a drummer Bagha who cannot drum. They manage to impress the king of ghosts who gives them three boons. First, they can together create such beautiful music that people will go in trance. Second, when they clap together, they can produce delicious food to fulfill their hunger. The last wish is that the shoes they have been given will enable them to travel anywhere. They then impress the Maharaja of Shundi with their music. Danger looms ahead, as the Maharaja’s twin brother who is the king Halla, is going to attack Shundi. Goopi and Bagha decide to go to Halla and get the twin brother and stop the war.
Both admit to have seen Ray’s film as kids and falling in love with it. “I had read the direct translation. I have also seen the illustrations and was familiar with the endearing film” Shilpa admitted. Soumitra adds that the film created by them is their own. “The film is a classic. So there was a pressure. We saw it 20 times and then started taking ahead.” While Shilpa has done her M.Phil in animation from Royal College of Art, London and her Masters in Design from Industrial Design Centre, Soumitra is a FTII product – a documentary and short filmmaker.
Shilpa had also worked on Gulzar’s adaptation of the story as an illustrator. She further adds, “The book had come to me but it was Gulzar’s version. While illustrating, I wondered of what could I do to better the original. In the procession, I created my own version and felt it had all the ingredients for animation.” Thus, in this version, you will find staccato movements here like leather puppetry. Flat puppet drawings too drew their attention and interested them very much.
Competing with someone as legendary as Satyajit Ray is a task, indeed. And Gopi Gyne Bagha Byne is a standard of how children’s film can be made. And to make such a film in your own creative mould is tough task. But Soumitra quickly replies that making a film their own is not an effort. “Such things such come naturally. We did not do any extra effort but yes, we made it more contemporary by touching subjects like the Indo-Pak issues or the Aam Aadmi Party effort for power to the people. For example, instead of the three boons in the previous film, we have used four boons. The fourth boon is later used for the people. Ray’s film was or is still a fantasy. We differed from other versions like using metaphors and so on.”
The viewers who have seen Ray’s classic also rave about the music by the master filmmaker. Yet again, Shilpa pushes away any question regarding pressure of their music being compared to Ray’s version. “The good thing is that there are so many version. We can say that the narration we created was our own as did the music.” Shilpa feels his famed Ghost’s Dance was quite a long thing (8 mins) and was more to showcase technical mastery.
Both feel that animation can be a good way to introduce one and all, especially young minds to literature. During the Q-A session, Shilpa was particularly happy with the fact that one of the kids had read her illustrated book and could find points to talk on. They also feel the young generation is moving away from literature which needs to be attended to.
Indian young ones are bombarded with animation from the west and east which probably look the same and have no cultural connection. Indian animation did get some push in recent times with Hanuman, but unfortunately has fallen into some ugly rut. Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya was screened first at the International Children’s Film Festival and has then visited quite a few festivals. The response, as per the couple, has been good. “But there is not much market, at the moment. We are finding alternative to bring it out. We have to be clever,” Shilpa admits.
Soumitra admits having ideas to make sure the young audience gets to watch such work, but in his words, releasing is a different ball game. “It will take almost a year for release. The film has to be heard. Even a film like The Lunchbox took two years to get released. There was an animation boom, but low grade animation films spoilt the industry. Indian distributors have no faith.”
Till the time it finds a safe ground to release Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, one can hope that Shilpa and Soumitra Ranade do not lose their faith in their work.
Image Credits: www.animation-boss.com, tiff.net and www.mask9.com